The conservative opposition questioned the neutrality of the United Nations in Colombia’s peace process on Monday after observers were filmed dancing with guerrillas at a New Years’s Eve gathering.
Opposition representatives reacted furiously following the release of a video that was published by Spanish news agency EFE showing UN observers dancing to traditional Colombian “vallenato” music with demobilizing guerrillas at a pre-grouping camp in the north of the country.
What might seem an innocent incident provoked dramatic reactions from the Democratic Center (CD) party of former President Alvaro Uribe, who has been a consistent critic of both the deal and the preceding peace talks since they were announced in 2012.
“International shame. Delegates of the UN are partying with FARC terrorists,” wrote CD House Representative Margarita Restrepo on her Twitter profile.
“What a joke,” Restrepo’s colleague Maria Fernanda Cabal said on the social media website. “How can we trust in the UN delegates’ impartiality when they go partying with the FARC?”
Senator Armando Benedetti of President Juan Manuel Santos‘ U Party, conceded that such incidents should not happen but slammed the opposition party for manipulating it for political purposes.
“The opposition should not dramatize things as they are doing. Dancing and drinking is not forbidden and we should celebrate that they are dancing and not firing a bullet. I think we can not fall into the mistake of saying that these things damage the peace process,” the congressman told Caracol Radio.
The peace process is currently at a crucial and delicate stage as the FARC rebels are gathered in pre-grouping camps in order to hand over their weapons under the supervision of UN observers.
With a Truth Commission and a Transitional Justice Court bound to begin investigations by mass human rights violations by both the state and the FARC, the CD has become increasingly jumpy as the party’s leader could be called to trial over the mass violation of human rights committed under Uribe’s watch.
The zealous reaction of the opposition forced the UN to issue a statement in it said it would take appropriate measures to ensure that there is no repeat of such incidents defending its position of neutrality.
“This behavior is inappropriate and doesn’t reflect the values of professionalism and impartiality of the mission,” said the statement.
The statement adds that the Mission of the UN in Colombia “reiterates to public opinion its full commitment to an objective and rigorous verification of the bilateral and definitive cease of fire and hostilities and the laying down of arms.”
The FARC’s demobilization and disarmament is part of a major, 10-year peace process that seeks to end a cycle of violence that has left more than 8 million victims.